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Originally published December 11, 2012 at 10:51 PM | Page modified December 12, 2012 at 4:20 PM

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Mariners, Amtrak fault proposed arena design

Seattle Mariners and Amtrak representatives questioned the proposed design for the proposed Sodo sports arena Tuesday night, saying they had concerns about pedestrian safety.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Representatives of the Seattle Mariners and Amtrak told a city design-review board Tuesday night that the proposed plans for a new sports arena in Seattle's Sodo District jeopardize pedestrian access and safety.

An agreement between the Mariners and arena proponent Chris Hansen to limit simultaneous events at Safeco Field, CenturyLink Field and the new arena could minimize conflicts with traffic and pedestrians, said Mariners' attorney Melody McCutcheon.

In the absence of those agreements, she said, "we have significant concerns whether this is workable."

The main entryway in the architects' preferred design relies on public access along Occidental Avenue South and South Massachusetts Street. McCutcheon said those streets now provide access to the Mariners parking garage and for emergency vehicles.

The Mariners have previously opposed the arena's Sodo location on grounds that it could worsen traffic congestion on game days.

Rob Eaton, director of government affairs for Amtrak, said he was concerned about a secondary entrance to the arena proposed for South Holgate Street, noting that the street crosses nine active railway lines.

"Our consideration is safety. We ask that the city and the design team look at the nexus of pedestrians and vehicles," Eaton said.

The architectural team for Hansen gave its second presentation of design options for the arena to the Seattle Downtown Design Review Board and a public audience of about 50 people at Seattle City Hall.

The preferred alternative features a stepped plaza rising from South Massachusetts about 30 feet to the arena's concourse level. The designers, 360 Architects of Kansas City, show the entryway covered with high canopies so crowds can gather even in poor weather.

A glass entryway and windows around the upper floors would allow views of downtown Seattle and the Port of Seattle's working cranes, allowing sports fans and concertgoers to orient themselves within the building, the architects said.

Members of the design board questioned whether the entryway steps would encourage activity more than a flat, open public plaza would, particularly when events weren't scheduled.

"It's not obvious to me that the grand-steps option would make the space more active, rather than the opposite," said Brian Scott, the board's developer representative.

Hansen's land-use attorney, Jack McCullough, said Hansen's representatives planned to meet with other sports teams and stadium authorities to discuss scheduling and operations in the stadium district. The design team asked to return to the board in January with more developed drawings.

Early public reaction to the arena's design, released 10 days ago, was harsh, with criticism aimed particularly at the prominent angled protrusion in the center of the building, which some said resembled the smokestack of a Washington state ferry or made the whole arena look like a Sherman tank.

The lead designer, Mathew Hallett, described the "icon" at the center as giving the arena a landmark quality, particularly if it was lit after dark.

"Nighttime, that's when it would really come alive," he said.

The five-member Downtown Design Review Board, comprised of architects and developers, must decide whether the proposed design fits within the city's downtown design guidelines.

Those guidelines direct architects to create buildings that fit an urban neighborhood, improve pedestrian safety and access and create a memorable "sense of place." One guideline calls for the building to enhance the city skyline with an upper portion that promotes "visual interest and variety."

The Design Review Board makes recommendations to the developer about potential revisions and to the city about whether the project should advance to permitting. The city Department of Planning and Development gives final project approval.

The city is determining the scope of a required environmental review of the Sodo location and what alternative sites will be considered.

Material from Seattle Times archives was used in this report.

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or lthompson@seattletimes.com.

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